TEXAS SALTWATER by Calixto Gonzales

In the Bag

I CAN SAFELY SAY that I am the saltwater angler that I’ve become largely from the mentorship of one fishing guide: Captain Larry Corbett.

He taught me to fish with artificial lures at a time when I used primarily live bait (except for the speck rigs I used under the lights). I have developed a preference for baitcasting tackle and braided lines because of Larry, and I’m a huge fan of soft plastics such as the Kelly Wiggler and Down South Lures, and especially the Gambler Flapping Shad and Z-Man baits too—all thanks to Larry.

Corbett was a tournament bass fisherman in a previous life, and he carried the same amount of tackle that bass fishermen of the ’80s and ’90s did. He literally had boxes and boxes of soft plastics, jigheads, topwater plugs, swim baits, spoons, spinnerbaits (before they were in vogue as redfish killers), MirroLures, bucktails, and some lures I still haven’t been able to identify. If anyone was going to be prepared for any on-the-water contingency, it was going to be Larry.

Being the good and studious protégé that I was, I began to emulate Larry in the amount of tackle I’d drag along with me when I was on the water. I had every possible color of plastic lure that I could find. If a new color came on the market, I’d buy four bags before I even knew if the darned thing even caught fish.

Then I took one trip with Captain Jeff Neu, and I was forced to face reality: The joke was that I never even opened the damn box. I used one of Jeff’s favorite soft plastics the entire day. I realized at that point that I had a real problem.

My name is Cal, and I’m a tackle hoarder.

The only solution was to go through my tackle bag and start thinning out all the excess tackle that I’m herniating myself by carrying. Where to begin…

First thing I need to get rid of is the box of MirrOlure 7 MR topwater switchbaits. I have at least a couple of dozen in that box, and they take up a lot of space. They’re outta here!

On second thought, that’s not such a good idea. The first big trout I ever caught on a topwater was on a 7MR. I may not use them very often, but they do put fish in the pot when I fish with them, especially when trout are short striking at bigger plugs. I think I’d better leave them where they sit.

I know, I’ll ditch all those jigheads. I must have more than 100 of them in varying sizes. There’s gotta be at least a pound, pound and a half of lead. Talking about giving me a hernia! I’m surprised that my guts haven’t popped out of my navel from all that weight. I should know better than having so many of them.

Wait a minute…those jigheads are in a variety of shapes and sizes. If I have them there, it’s because they each have different application. I have some for swim baits, others for shrimp tails, football heads for fishing for flounders on the bottom and shadheads for swimming shad and curlytails.

I have light jigheads for fishing shallow, and heavier ones for fishing in deeper water. There is a purpose for every single jighead in my tacklebox. I’d better leave them alone. You never know when I’m going to be looking for just the right head after I got rid of it.

Can you believe that I have so many different spools of leader material? Who on earth would have so many of them?

Me, that’s who.

The 30-pound test fluorocarbon is for those times when I’m fishing for big bruiser redfish around the Mansfield or Brazos Santiago jetties, so I can’t get rid of it. I use the 20-pound test the most, so I can’t lose that (it also explains why I have such a big spool of it).

Sometimes the water is really, really clear, so the 15- and 12-pound are necessities (and the lighter stuff will do as reel-filler in a pinch). I’ve got a use for all of them, so I better hang on to each.

I need those braid scissors because I do use braid so much. Not only that, but it does a good job cutting leader line, trimming down soft plastics, and cutting nose hair. I got to hang onto the needlenose pliers just in case I have to replace a split ring (They have wire cutters built-in; what if I lose or break my scissors?).

Every fisherman has at least one knife. AND, you never know when I’m going to need that spare.

I guess that means I need to get rid of some those soft plastics. I have so many I could open my own section at Academy.

But which ones? I don’t want to get rid of the classic color patterns. Red and white has always done me right. I’m not too keen on the SEC, but LSU is a very effective color pattern. Chartreuse also goes well with white…and with red for that matter. Those are some of the best colors I’ve got, so it also stands to reason I’d have all my favorite tails in those patterns. They work so well I HAVE to keep as many spares on hand as I can.

Those color patterns don’t always work, so it stands to reason that I’d have a few other color patterns to experiment with when the old reliables fail to produce.

The astute fisherman is a versatile one, you know? I can’t have them in just one length, either, y’know? I need three-inchers for when fish are feeding on young of the year bait. Four-inch tails are my default size, so I’ve gotta keep them around. Big fish like big baits, so I better keep those six and eight-inch plastics handy.

I did find an old jerkbait that I could never get to swim straight. After years of experimenting and tweaking, I’m giving up on it and tossing it into the dead lure box.

I feel better. Maybe Jeff won’t razz me so much.


Email Cal Gonzales at ContactUs@fishgame.com


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